Wednesday, October 1, 2014

New Blood Test for Depression: Farewell, Stigma

A new study suggests that a simple blood test can now accurately screen for depression and even identify the treatment therapy most likely to succeed.

For centuries, depression was a mysterious, unpredictable condition. Since there were no typical physical symptoms, and since it left no visible evidence on the body – no pockmarks, no bleeding, no coughing, no visible scars – people questioned its authenticity as a "disease."

Through the years, people suffering with the mental illness would hear things like, "There's nothing wrong with you! Pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get on with your life."

The End of Depression's "Stigma"? 
In addition to helping doctors identify and treat people with depression -- and even detect in advance those patients likely to experience depressive episodes in the future -- this new blood test provides evidence that depression is biologically very real -- like cancer, pneumonia, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's.

Now, as with other diseases, observable biological causes can be assigned to depression, and DNA test results may even suggest potential targeted treatments. The new blood test could help eliminate – once and for all -- the unfortunate "stigma" that has so long accompanied depression. That stigma has prevented countless sufferers from coming forward to seek help.

With her team, Dr. Eva Redei, a neuroscientist and professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, took blood samples from 32 patients 21-79 years old who – through clinical interviews – had been diagnosed with depression. The researchers then compared those samples with blood from 32 people within that same age range without depression -- the control group.

Three conclusions emerged:

1) The researchers discovered nine RNA markers – molecules the carry out instructions from the DNA – that varied significantly between the two groups. The team at Northwestern assigned those markers as the basis for diagnosing depression.

2) The 32 depressed patients then underwent 18 weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy, a common treatment for depression. After that interval, Dr. Redei retested their blood. She found she could identify the patients who had most benefited from the therapy simply by observing the changes in their RNA markers. Put another way, the second sampling provided biological evidence of the treatment's effectiveness.

3) The researchers identified three RNA markers that didn't change from the first test to the second, regardless of the patient's level of improvement. Redei suspected those three unchanging markers indicated predisposition to depression – another potential bonanza for clinicians... and their patients.

Co-lead author Dr. David Mohr said:
Being aware of people who are more susceptible to recurring depression allows us to monitor them more closely. They can consider a maintenance dose of antidepressants or continued psychotherapy to diminish the severity of a future episode or prolong the intervals between episodes.

More Biological Evidence for Depression
Dr. Zachary Kaminsky, at the Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins Medicine, also weighed in on the study's findings. He wasn't involved in the study, but he had pioneered an earlier blood test to predict suicide risk. In his own research, Kaminsky had measured very different things than Redei and her team. Still, he thinks his own research shares something basic in common with Redei's: an effort to create biological tests and evidence for mental illness.
It's an exciting time -- there is potential to find factors that are going to distinguish between various mental illnesses as well as responses to direct clinical treatment. Any finding that gets us closer to that is very interesting and worth following up.

Kaminsky and Redei both agree that her recent findings need to be replicated in larger test groups before the FDA would consider approving the blood test.

There's another issue, too. Said Redei, "The major question here is always funding. We are really trying to gather as much funding from as many sources as possible so it can move ahead."

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that major depressive disorder -- the leading cause of disability for Americans ages 15 to 44 -- affects 6.7 percent of all Americans.

Redei hopes her work can help bring psychiatry into "the 21st century. We'll get to the point where there won't be any discrimination between physical illness and mental illness."

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Here is Northwestern University's September 14, 2014 press release announcing the study's results.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lyme Research Alliance Awards Nearly $600,000 in New Grants

Fantastic news! 

LRA receives record number of grant applications to advance Lyme disease research. Funds seven promising studies to find a reliable diagnostic test and effective treatment options for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

September 30, 2014

Stamford, CT – Lyme Research Alliance (LRA), the nation's largest private non-profit funder of Lyme disease research at universities, today announced the awarding of seven grants worth $587,000 to researchers focused on the identification, treatment and cure for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. 

LRA noted it had received the most applications in its history—over 20 grant proposals—a 100 percent increase from last year. 

"While we were pleased to receive so many solid applications from talented scientists this year, it underscores the fact that only 17 percent of grant applications receive funding from the government these days," said Harriet Kotsoris, M.D., LRA's Chief Scientific Officer. "Scientific research is severely underfunded by the government and scientists must go to private donors."

The resulting LRA 2014-2015 grant portfolio is "outstanding," she said. "These scientists are at the top of their game. This speaks to the importance of LRA in the Lyme disease research community and the critical role played by private funding." 

The seven grants were awarded to:Armin Alaedini, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, New York; John Aucott, M.D., Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD; Nichole Baumgarth, D.V.M, Ph.D., Professor of Pathology, Microbiology Immunology, University of California, Davis, CA; Charles Chiu, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor in Laboratory Medicine and Medicine, Infectious Diseases at the University of California, San Francisco, CA; A.T. Charlie Johnson Ph.D., Professor of Physics and Astronomy, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA; Kim Lewis, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor and Director, Antimicrobial Discovery Center, Northeastern University, Boston, MA; Steven Schutzer, M.D., Professor, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care and Allergy/Immunology, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Newark, NJ along with Claire Fraser, Ph.D., University of Maryland.

The grants reflect LRA's scientific agenda: the discovery of an accurate and accessible diagnostic test, and the development of effective treatments for long-term or "chronic" Lyme disease. LRA grantees are also expected to publish their findings in peer-reviewed scientific journals, the forum for knowledge-sharing across the scientific community.

The researchers were selected following a rigorous evaluation process using guidelines established by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Each proposal was evaluated by Grant Review Committee members of LRA's Scientific Advisory Board and met the same scientific standards that the NIH applies to its own research grant review process. The resulting 2014-2015 grant awards represent projects judged to have exceptional prospects of delivering measurable advances. 

Innovative efforts in the most promising areas of tick-borne disease research are supported by LRA. Together with Bay Area Lyme Foundation, for instance, LRA has funded Dr. Johnson for his work on developing a fast, accurate, affordable diagnostic test via nanotechnology, the multidisciplinary science that looks at how matter can be manipulated at the molecular and atomic level. Dr. Johnson, along with Dr. Dustin Brisson and his University of Pennsylvania team, is focusing on a technique that uses single-layered molecular graphene sheets—attached to antibodies that react with specific proteins carried by the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease. 

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the U.S. with some 300,000 new cases reported in the U.S. each year. The number of Lyme cases reported annually has increased nearly 25-fold since national surveillance began in 1982. There are no accurate diagnostic tests for the tick-borne disease, no tests to prove that Lyme bacteria are eradicated or that an individual is cured. Some 15-20 percent of individuals with Lyme end up with long term health problems. 

In announcing the new grants, Dr. Kotsoris said, "As the number of Lyme and tick-borne disease cases continue to grow, there is a tremendous need to keep science moving forward. LRA is proud to support the advanced research being conducted by some of the best and the brightest men and women in the field today. Through their work, we believe there will be scientific breakthroughs in prevention strategies, diagnosis and treatment, leading to a cure for Lyme."

For more than a decade LRA, formerly Time for Lyme, has funded innovative research at universities across the United States, from Northeastern University to Johns Hopkins, Washington University and Texas A&M, just to name a few. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, LRA has raised over $9 million to combat Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

Lyme Research Alliance, formerly Time for Lyme, is a Connecticut-based, national non-profit that funds cutting-edge research into Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. For more information go to:


Monday, September 29, 2014

Lyme Disease Surges North, and Canada Moves Out of Denial

Caught ticks(Image: Caught ticks via Shutterstock)

Monday, 29 September 2014 10:06

By Marianne LavelleThe Daily Climate | Report
Truthout only exists thanks to the support of our readers. Help us continue to publish truly independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today!

Vett Lloyd saved the tick that latched onto her while she was gardening outside her home in New Brunswick, Canada in 2011. A biologist who specialized in cancer genetics, she plucked the blood-sucking creature from her skin and sent it to the local public health office to have it tested for the dangerous bacteria she knew it could carry.
But officials told her not to worry, Lloyd said. Lyme disease was exceedingly rare in the forested maritime province northeast of Maine. The tick was tossed untested.
The next year brought agony: Fatigue, fevers that would come and go, aching joints, and finally, trouble lifting her

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Silver 'boost to antibiotic success'

Silver 'boost to antibiotic success'

BacteriaGram-negative bacterial infections can be difficult to treat

Related Stories

Adding silver to antibiotics makes them 10 to 1,000 times more effective at fighting infections, research suggests.

Silver has been used as an antimicrobial for centuries, but little has been known about how it works.

The new research suggests adding it to existing antibiotics could counteract the rise of drug-resistant microbes.

Experiments in mice showed the metal disrupts the biological processes of bacteria, making them more permeable to antibiotics, a US team reports.

Bacteria are adapting and finding ways to survive the effects of antibiotics.

According to England's chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at a rate that is both alarming and irreversible.

Silver acts against Gram-negative bacteria - one of the two main types of bacteria - which are particularly difficult pathogens to treat.

The research was led by Jose Ruben Morones-Ramirez of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Boston University.

He told the journal Science Translational Medicine: "This work shows that silver can be used to enhance the action of existing antibiotics against Gram-negative bacteria, thus strengthening the antibiotic arsenal for fighting bacterial infections."

Future studies will focus on testing how silver can be added to antibiotic injections or tablets for use in patients.

Read the source at BBC News:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Deer Tick Virus causes permanent brain damage in 50% of cases

"The first clue that deer tick virus could cause human disease came in 2001 when deer tick virus RNA, taken from the brain of a man who died ... in Lyme-endemic areas, many, if not all, cases previously diagnosed as POWV are likely deer tick virus. Furthermore, the number of cases appears to be rising rapidly."

Encephalitis-causing Ticks Emerging in Northeast

Marc El Khoury, MD, with New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York, reported on two related diseases: deer tick virus, which, as its name suggests, is carried by the hard-bodied deer tick, and Powassan virus (POWV), which is carried by a soft-bodied tick that feeds on groundhogs and woodchucks.

But the two diseases share a common ancestor and are difficult to tell apart in standard antibody tests.

Until recently, however, deer tick virus was not considered a threat to human health. The first clue that deer tick virus could cause human disease came in 2001 when deer tick virus RNA, taken from the brain of a man who died in 1997 shortly after a presumed Powassan encephalitis infection, was sequenced.

Now, El Khoury reports that, in Lyme-endemic areas, many, if not all, cases previously diagnosed as POWV are likely deer tick virus. Furthermore, the number of cases appears to be rising rapidly. Between 1958 and 2003 -- a span of 45 years -- only about 40 cases of POWV were reported in the United States and Canada. Then, in four years, from 2008 to 2012, 21 cases were reported from Wisconsin and Minnesota, and 12 cases from New York State.

"Almost all of these cases are in Lyme country, where humans are much more likely to be preyed upon by deer ticks carrying deer tick virus than ticks carrying Powassan virus," El Khoury said. "Now it appears that in Lyme-endemic areas, people can not only get Lyme disease or babesiosis, but also a deer tick virus-related meningoencephalitis."

Many infections are probably mild or asymptomatic. But more severe infections can progress to encephalitis, which can have a case fatality rate of up to 15 percent and cause permanent nerve or brain damage in about 50 percent of diagnosed cases. Powassan virus infections (that may in fact be deer tick virus) have been reported in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Full article here-

How to Prevent Four of Five Heart Attacks

From ABC News:


According to Akesson's study, men at lowest risk for a heart attack didn't smoke, walked or biked for at least 40 minutes per day, exercised at least one hour per week, consumed one to two glasses of alcohol daily, and followed a diet with fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, reduced-fat dairy products, whole grains and fish. A waist measuring less than 38 inches was also associated with fewer heart attacks.

The full story here:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Two excellent letters on Lyme testing

There are 37 known species of bacteria that cause Lyme disease, but the current Lyme two-tier test inadequately tests even for the one spirochete it is designed for—Borrelia burgdorferi. Because of this we are missing many Borreliosis infections, and our patients are subjected to immeasurable suffering because they aren't receiving timely antimicrobial therapy. Research shows that such patients might go on to receive faulty diagnoses of psychosomatic, psychiatric or neuromuscular illnesses instead of prescriptions for antibiotics that would cure their infections.

A paper co-authored by Barbara Johnson, an expert with the CDC Lyme program, reveals that the current two-tier method is positive in only 31% of those with erythema migrans (the bull's-eye rash associated with Lyme disease) and in only 63% of those with acute neuroborreliosis or carditis due to burgdorferi Lyme disease. This means that out of 100 patients who have Lyme disease, we might misdiagnose 69 of them, leaving their infections untreated.

Recent research out of Johns Hopkins University suggests we likely aren't using the correct antibiotics. The drugs we are using might be contributing to persistent bacteria and may not be fully clearing infections.

Given the current urgent state of affairs, we should be racing to find better testing strategies that will identify all of the Borrelia species and associated co-infections, and to find better antibiotic regimens that will cure our patients. We need to find these infections early—before life-altering manifestations of cranial nerve palsy, meningitis, myocarditis, arthritis, permanent disability and death.

Nevena Zubcevik D.O.
Resident physician and tick-borne illness advisory board member
Harvard Medical School

Here are the references for Dr Zubcevik’s statements………

Dr Zubcevik’s 1st statement:

“Recent research out of Johns Hopkins University suggests we likely aren't using the correct antibiotics. The drugs we are using might be contributing to persistent bacteria and may not be fully clearing infections.”

Reference link:

Identification of novel activity against Borrelia burgdorferi persisters using an FDA approved drug library


“Our findings may have implications for the development of a more effective treatment for Lyme disease and for the relief of long-term symptoms that afflict some Lyme disease patients.”

Dr Zubcevik’s 2nd statement:

“A paper co-authored by Barbara Johnson, an expert with the CDC Lyme program, reveals that the current two-tier method is positive in only 31% of those with erythema migrans (the bull's-eye rash associated with Lyme disease) and in only 63% of those with acute neuroborreliosis or carditis due to burgdorferi Lyme disease.”

Reference link:

2-Tiered Antibody Testing for Early and Late Lyme Disease Using Only an Immunoglobulin G Blot with the Addition of a VlsE Band as the Second-Tier Test


“Results: With standard 2-tiered IgM and IgG testing, 31% of patients with active erythema migrans (stage 1), 63% of those with acute neuroborreliosis or carditis”


Our son was diagnosed with Lyme disease and babesiosis. The CDC test was negative for Lyme disease. The IGeneX test clearly showed that he had Lyme.

Regarding Dr. Paul Mead's letter about the CDC Lyme test (Letters, Sept. 5), our family is familiar with tick-borne diseases. Our son was diagnosed with Lyme disease and babesiosis. The CDC test was negative for Lyme disease. The IGeneX, Inc. test clearly showed that he had Lyme. My son's life has been changed due to the availability of testing choices. Our son is now fine. We benefited from scientists and innovators who developed reliable tests that allowed us to receive an accurate diagnosis. There are two groups that will benefit from the regulation of independent laboratories: the government, which will further consolidate its power, and the existing owners of FDA-approved tests, who will benefit from new barriers placed on competitors. Individual patients will be harmed.

Jessica Devers
San Rafael, Calif.

Is a New Transdermal Anti-Depressant the Best in the World?

(PRWEB) September 23, 2014

Dr. James Schaller of Naples Florida shares a scientific breakthrough which could change the lives of millions who suffer from depression and arthritis.

This antidepressant has very little in common with any of the current medications approved by the FDA, and represents an effective, unique, and natural approach to depression.

Current synthetic antidepressants share problems that include weight gain, sexual dysfunction, serious withdrawal symptoms, ulcers, heart rhythm changes and seizure risks. (1) Suicide risks may also exist, possibly due to slow effects or to the initial high dosing that is common. (2)

Today Dr. James Schaller announced the patent for a new and unique antidepressant treatment. This antidepressant has very little in common with any of the current medications currently approved by the FDA, and represents a unique type of medication. The patent can be seen at:

The patent is the creation of transdermal SAM-e which is a natural substance occurring in the body; it is one of the most important cell chemicals for humans. This new dose delivery design avoids the stomach and intestinal side effects of oral SAM-e, and avoids the large number of expensive and inconvenient pills required for mood recovery. It also allows the B-vitamins that SAM-e uses to work to be part of the formula in a simple patch.

This antidepressant has very little in common with any of the current medications approved by the FDA, and represents an effective, unique, and natural approach to depression.

Oral or injectable SAM-e has existed in medical science for many decades and the oral form is now in the majority of American pharmacies. Research exists to support its use to prevent routine arthritis (3, 4), to decrease liver cancer, and to decrease inflammatory chemicals. In contrast to routine antidepressants, transdermal SAM-e works more quickly and is not associated with allergic reactions, weight gain, sexual dysfunction, or withdrawal symptoms. It also does not cause ulcers or other intestinal damage, nor does it increase seizures, harm bone marrow or cause heart rhythm changes. (5, 6, 7)

Transdermal SAM-e has many modes of action, such as fighting depression in three neurotransmitter systems: serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.

This patented treatment was created by research physician James Schaller, who specializes in treatment-resistant medical or psychiatric patients, in collaboration with research pharmacists, who designed this formulation over the span of ten years.

Dr. Schaller is an internationally renowned author, research physician, theologian, and part-time clinician specializing in non-surgical, non-cancer treatment failure patients. He has written over two dozen books and top journal papers in diverse areas of medicine, including tick, flea and other infections which cause chronic illness and fatigue. He has 13 books discussing tick, flea and pet infections such as Bartonella and dangerous Babesia. He was also the first to publish a practical cancer breakthrough, now a standard treatment internationally. Dr. Schaller treats people nationally and internationally and tailors his treatment to their unique biochemistry and healing preferences. To learn more, visit

Those with a serious financial interest in purchasing the patent should contact:

James Schaller, MD, MAR, PA 
Community Bank Tower 
Suite 305 
5150 Tamiami Trial N. 
Naples, Florida 34103 
Phone: 239.263.0133


1. What are the real risks of antidepressants? Harvard Mental Health Letter. May 2005.

2. Brent DA, Gibbons R. Initial dose of antidepressant and suicidal behavior in youth: start low, go slow. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Jun;174(6):909-11.

3. De Silva V, El-Metwally A, Ernst E, Lewith G, Macfarlane GJ; Arthritis Research UK Working Group on Complementary and Alternative Medicines. Evidence for the efficacy of complementary and alternative medicines in the management of osteoarthritis: a systematic review. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2011 May;50(5):911-20.

4. Kim J, Lee EY, Koh EM, Cha HS, Yoo B, Lee CK, Lee YJ,K Ryu H, Lee KH, Song YW. Comparative clinical trial of S-adenosylmethionine versus nabumetone for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis: an 8-week, multicenter, randomized, double-blind, double-dummy, Phase IV study in Korean patients. Clin Ther. 2009 Dec;31(12):2860-72.

5. Green T, Steingart L, Frisch A, Zarchi O, Weizman A, Gothelf D. The feasibility and safety of S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe) for the treatment of neuropsychiatric symptoms in 22q11.2 deletion syndrome: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial. J Neural Transm. 2012 Nov;119(11):1417-23.

6. Papakostas GI. Evidence for S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM-e) for the treatment of major depressive disorder. J Clin Psychiatry. 2009;70 Suppl 5:18-22.

The source of the story:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Why your generic drugs might be costing you more under Obama-care

This story was co-published with The New York Times' The Upshot.
Health insurance companies are no longer allowed to turn away patients because of their pre-existing conditions or charge them more because of those conditions. But some health policy experts say insurers may be doing so in a more subtle way: by forcing people with a variety of illnesses - including Parkinson's disease, diabetes and epilepsy - to pay more for their drugs.
Insurers have long tried to steer their members away from more expensive brand name drugs, labeling them as "non-preferred" and charging higher co-payments. But according to an editorial published Wednesday in the American Journal of Managed Care, several prominent health plans have taken it a step further, applying that same concept even to generic drugs.
The Affordable Care Act bans insurance companies from discriminating against patients with health problems, but that hasn't stopped them from seeking new and creative ways to shift costs to consumers. In the process, the plans effectively may be rendering a variety of ailments "non-preferred," according to the editorial.
The rest of the story

Here's the bad news about antibiotic control by the govt.....

I fear this will make it even more difficult for Lyme pts to get their abx. As if we needed more hurdles. Sigh.....

WASHINGTON -- Antibiotic stewardship programs can improve patient care, reduce the use of the medications, and save money, researchers reported here.

And in some cases they might be associated with a reduction in antibiotic resistance, investigators said during a media event at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

But the key benefit is improved patient care, according to Fredrik Resman, MD, of Lund University in Malmo, Sweden.

"You have to keep that in mind all the time," Resman told MedPage Today, conceding stewardship programs are a balancing act between the needs of patients and the need to use antibiotics rationally.

"You have to keep that in mind all the time," Resman told MedPage Today, conceding stewardship programs are a balancing act between the needs of patients and the need to use antibiotics rationally.

In a case-control study among geriatric patients, Resman and colleagues were able to cut the duration of antibiotic use by instituting a stewardship program markedly with no impact on mortality.

Read the rest of the story: